Letting your children loose!

This post was written by NVRC Staff Writer in Family, General, Parenting
Child running

5 tips for helping them develop independence.

When children are toddlers it’s easy to figure out when they are ready for more independence. You hold their hands when they learn to walk then hover behind them as they take their first precious independent steps. In only a couple of weeks, they take off running and boy do they smile when they take off! They are thrilled and confident with their newfound abilities despite the tumbles and set-backs they experience.

Fast forward seven years and it’s time to support our children with new skills such as independence, responsibility and interpersonal relationships. As parents we hover, support and prompt our children as they navigate these tricky skills.  Unlike walking, it’s really hard to know when to let them take off on their own. It’s tempting to manage their experiences to minimize set-backs and failure. Yet we know this is detrimental to their healthy development because we rob them of the opportunity to practice and improve.

To support families and promote healthy child development, the NVRC has designed opportunities for children to test out their independence. Children eight years and up can attend our public swims, skates and open gyms independently.
Ready to drop your children off at the Community Recreation Centre? Here are some tips:
  1. Know before you go
    Make sure your kids are prepared, and able to answer basic questions and know how to ask for help from safe adults.

    Family information: Kids need to be able to tell someone their address, phone number, parent’s cell or emergency contact phone number, and the full names of their family members

    How to get help: Asking for help is an important life skill.  Make a plan. Try role-play. Who are safe people to ask for help? What happens if you need to ask a stranger for help? Know how to identify staff at the community recreation centre? Who is allowed to pick-up / drive you and under which conditions?    

    Remind your child of the behavior that is expected of them: Be polite, have good manners, respect people and property.

  2. Start small, make a plan & practice 
    Choose an activity for your child to do alone. Make a game plan and talk about your expectations. Practice by walking through some scenarios then let your child be in charge and pretend you’re not there.
  3. Bring a friend 
    An adventure is always better when you share it with someone. Find a like-minded family and team-up your children. It’s built in support for both the kids and the parents!
  4. Debrief with your child 
    Ask about your child’s experience and be a good listener. Avoid focusing on poor decisions by focusing on the process and getting your child to reflect on their experience.
  5. Celebrate your child’s success 
    It takes courage to try something new. No matter how successful your child was – let them know you are proud of them for trying their best. Remind children that it is okay to make mistakes when they are learning. Reinforce the changes you would like to see before their next visit not after the current trip.

NOTE:  Children must be 8 years old to swim independently in NVRC pools. Children 7 & under must be accompanied by an adult (16yrs+). Adults may supervise up to three children in the pool. 

To view public schedules for swimming and skating, visit our website.


We have asked our employees and guest bloggers to contribute to our blog in their own voice and with their own opinions. As such, the opinions expressed in this blog entry are not necessarily shared by North Vancouver Recreation & Culture. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.